The mission? Helping homeless
Some 90 volunteers spend Christmas Day providing holiday meals at River of Life
Dozens of people spent their Christmas Day helping others eat a hot meal at the River of Life Mission in Chinatown.
Mission staff and about 90 volunteers served nearly 300 meals to the hungry and homeless at the mission's cafeteria from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., mission supervisors said.
To volunteer with or donate to the River of Life Mission, call 524-7656 Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
For more than 20 years, the River of Life Mission, a nonprofit organization supported by donations, has been providing showers, meals, clothing and food boxes to poor or homeless people.
The mission serves about 14,000 meals a month, and has served 15,000 more meals this year than last year, said Shervelle Gardner, the mission's director of operations.
Sometimes as many as 900 meals are served in one day at the mission, Gardner added. The mission was open only for lunch yesterday.
People lined up halfway down the block waiting to enter the mission, while volunteers in the cafeteria served ham, corn, baked beans, shrimp salad, potato salad, fruit and pies. Only about 50 diners can fit in the cafeteria at a time, Gardner said.
A guitarist provided music during the sit-down meal.
Most of those who received a meal were regulars, said shift manager Tracy Clay.
"These are all our friends," he said. "Some of these guys we've known for 10 to 14 years."
But some were new.
"The most important thing to do when you see a new face is to get to know their name. Nobody wants to be a 'hey you,'" he said.
After finishing his meal, Don Pfeifer said he was soaking up the Christmas spirit shown by the staff and volunteers, something he said he had lost sometime ago. For the remainder of the day, he would "enjoy what I got today."
"I think they outdid themselves this time," he said.
Pfeifer, who lives across the street from the mission and had been homeless for nearly five years, also pointed out a Christmas gift he received from the mission: a collared shirt with a fishing logo that reminded him of the days he spent fishing in Kaneohe.
"How could I have asked for anything more?" he said.
Volunteer Debbie Morgan, who moved here from Chicago three months ago, was fulfilling a personal goal by helping others.
"I've been wanting to do this for years," said Morgan, who started volunteering at the mission a few weeks ago. "I knew this is where I needed to be."
Morgan recalled helping a man at the shelter find a social organization that would help him get medication for his mental illness.
Moved to tears, she recalled how he hugged and thanked her afterward.
"'You might have saved my life,'" she recalled him saying. "That's why I'm here."